Talking Trends Part 2 - Alexa and the Amazon Effect

Part 2 of my three part blog series on the KPCB Internet Trends Report 2017. Here I consider the role of voice UI and the rapidly evolving retail ecosystem.

Alexa, Transfer Money to _____

Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Bixby, the list goes on. Voice assistants (and voice UI in general) are booming as improvements in AI and computing power finally make them useful! You can get a preview to the promise of voice assistants by taking a look at the dramatic growth of Alexa skills. There’s opportunity in virtually every industry to leverage Alexa to deliver a superior customer experience. But to enable voice skills that are truly helpful, like performing bank transfers or making direct payments, you need an extra level of security that’s not necessary if you’re just checking the weather.

For sensitive tasks, you need to verify that the person speaking is actually allowed to perform a transaction. Digital identity is at the core of authenticating and authorizing these secure transactions. ForgeRock is working with several large financial institutions to enable advanced Alexa services for next generation digital banking experiences. Check out this Alexa demo from Identity Live in Austin to see how it might work.

The Amazon Effect

While retail store closings are almost at a 20 year high, Amazon (ironically enough) is bucking the trend, and has begun opening up its own retail locations. This anecdote tells you all you need to know about the retail sector. Things have changed...for good. A combination of the maturation of the eCommerce market, oversaturation of American retail stores, and changing consumer tastes and preferences means that Amazon is the new king of retail. Iconic brands are struggling, while direct-to-consumer upstarts (Bonobos, Warby Parker, Glossier, Outdoor Voices, etc.) authentically connect with their audience via social media, superior customer experience, thoughtful products, and curated in-store experiences.

This blend of online and in-store experience points the way toward omnichannel retail. We’ve found that traditional retailers who’re trying to create similar omnichannel experiences use identity as the foundation. By creating a single view of the customer, you can provide a seamless experience across all channels, because you can interact with your customer with context of their past engagements with your brand. Delivering personalized recommendations and targeted offers is impossible without digital identity.

And is there any industry safe from Jeff Bezos and crew? If your business hasn’t seen Amazon as a competitor yet, it’s time to get ready. Investment in digital transformation can help you innovate and play offense against internet giants and new startups that are out to disrupt the incumbents.

You can find part 1 of my blog series on cloud and the internet of things here. Stay tuned for part 3 where I conclude with my thoughts on the new media movement and data privacy.

Mike Ellis is Chairman and CEO at ForgeRock. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeEllis100